Unleashing the power of team-driven endodontics

Dr. Sonia Chopra writes about how Specialty1 Partners brings the extra support she needs to run her business efficiently while she concentrates on the patients.

Dr. Sonia Chopra discusses her endodontic practice’s journey of growth and excellence — and it goes beyond technology and clinical expertise

What led you to realize that endodontic success hinged on your leadership style?

It probably comes as no surprise, but like most dentists, I didn’t earn an MBA or obtain leadership training while completing my DDS and endodontic residency. So, when I started my practice in 2008, I was just doing my best with the little knowledge I had of running a business. It’s wild how little of that sort of training we have as endodontists, as part of our formal training, because we are spending our energy and time on much-needed clinical education.

When I first started out, I was under the impression that leadership equaled control. I believed that, as the leader, I needed to steer every aspect of the business, and I felt responsible for every facet of the practice’s success. This isn’t because I was trying to be controlling — I was simply afraid of failing, especially after I’d put so much time, money, and training into my career.

While I had the clinical skills, work ethic, and compassion for my patients that I needed to succeed, I was mystified and frustrated by the high team turnover at my office. It felt like I was always at odds with my colleagues. A few disgruntled employees could be a fluke, sure, but when it became a clear pattern, I knew I needed to look inward.

During this period of introspection and growth, I realized I was the common denominator, and that my leadership style was to micromanage my team, rather than empower them — not exactly the MO of a strong leader. To unlock the practice’s full potential, I had to stop being a bottleneck, step aside, and give my team permission to soar. I also needed to accept failure as a part of work, because so long as we all learned from our failures, we’d continue to improve.

Deciding to trust my team was terrifying at first, but it quickly became a game-changer. I humbly acknowledged that they could perform various tasks as effectively as I could — if not better — because of their unique strengths. I also began investing time and resources in my team’s continuous development by prioritizing workflows, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and other comprehensive training for our staff, ensuring everyone was confident in their roles.

I embraced the importance of vulnerability, which is extremely scary for me. However, I have learned that it is my greatest superpower when it comes to connecting meaningfully with others. For instance, I let my team in on the anxieties and fears I was experiencing while tackling a particularly hard case, and explained that, when my attention is drawn away while finding a tricky MB2 or handling a delicate obturation by a question about billing or scheduling, it’s like my brain is split into two. I lose my focus on the patient, and this causes me frustration, which makes it more likely that I will be short with my colleague. So, I asked for my team’s help in helping me create that boundary between my clinical and management time, so that I can give everyone my all, when I’m focused on them.

Since changing the way I lead, I’ve been able to focus on patient care — the task that only I can do — while being fully supported by my front office and back office team. Our collective productivity improved, as has everyone’s job satisfaction. Turnover has decreased and tends to be due to life changes like moves or pregnancies rather than frustration. Best of all, our patients feel well cared for, and the practice is truly thriving.

(Left) Dr. Chopra treating one of her patients; (Right) Dr. Chopra with her Ballantyne Endodontics team members

What hurdles did you face in your transition to a team-driven model?

The process of letting go didn’t happen overnight. All the years of education, cross-country moves, and risk-taking to build my own practice in the shadow of the Great Recession had molded me into a self-proclaimed control freak. Any failing of my practice felt like a personal failure, so I had convinced myself it was necessary to oversee every detail.

So, as you can imagine, it took time to unlearn those habits. I started by delegating small tasks, assessing outcomes, and progressively entrusting more significant responsibilities to my team. The biggest challenge was to stay on the path, even in the face of setbacks and failures. The temptation to reclaim control of tasks was enormous.

But I had finally learned that leadership wasn’t about control — it was about vision, guidance, support, and building a resilient, self-sufficient, and empowered team.

Over time, I noticed that those who weren’t on board with my vision, or who weren’t willing to take on responsibility or ownership of tasks, weeded themselves out. And those who remained continued to impress me with their ingenuity and commitment. I’m grateful to have several of the same team members, who have stuck with me over the last decade-plus; they are now in leadership roles in my practice.

Ballantyne Endodontics’ technologically advanced operatory

How has taking a team-driven model impacted your professional and personal life?

My practice has become a well-oiled machine, which has led to more benefits than I ever could have imagined. Our production has improved and, as a result, my business partner and I were able to bring on an associate and hire more team members. It’s extremely gratifying to create jobs and see the impact of my practice growth. We’ve also seen improved operational efficiencies since Specialty1 Partners began providing administrative support services to our practice at the end of 2021.

A team-driven model has enhanced our company culture, too. We have traded micromanagement and competition for empowerment, trust, and collaboration. My colleagues, including the team providing business support services at Specialty1 Partners, understand that our practice will really thrive when the doctors are able to focus on the patients, and doing the work only we can do. This leads them to share all sorts of creative, problem-solving ideas.

It’s exciting that my colleagues not only understand my vision for the practice, but they embrace it as their own. They take ownership over certain key performance indicators (KPIs) and proactively take steps to course-correct when we aren’t hitting our goals.

With this shift in how my practice-level team functions coupled with the business and administrative support provided by Specialty1 Partners, the weight of the practice’s performance is no longer solely on my shoulders.

That means that I have been able to work fewer days in the practice, so I can grow my endodontic education platform, spend more quality time with my family, and take on projects and adventures that excite me — like traveling, gardening, and creating business development courses for dentists and endodontists.

Not only is my quality of life greatly improved, my team is happier. Turnover has decreased, and they feel more supported, empowered, and proud of their work than ever.

Dr. Chopra reviewing a radiograph with her patient

What else has led to your practice’s success?

I can’t overstate how important technology has been to my practice’s evolution. Clinical technology has made the biggest difference in my outcomes, production, and confidence. My favorite pieces of technology are my GentleWave® System, dental operating microscope, cone beam, and Fotona® laser.

While all of these innovations have changed the game, training my team to support me with modern endodontic technology has been crucial. My dental assistants, for example, are fully trained on operating the CBCT — a skill that even many dentists don’t have.

When I invest in my team by educating them about the technology we use, it empowers them and makes them feel valued. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to be productive in another operatory or get some work done that I would otherwise have to take home with me.

Not only does this streamline our operations, it improves team communication because my back office team understands the why behind their actions — they aren’t just following a workflow for its own sake. All of this leads to a superior patient experience and greater team collaboration and patient management.

Everyone on my team knows that we all share the responsibility of patient care. We’re all invested in our work and dedicated to elevating the practice’s capabilities and success.

What guidance would you give other endodontists looking to follow a similar journey?

If you want to elevate your practice’s production, outcomes, and workplace culture, taking a team-driven approach is key. Like me, you may find it extremely fulfilling to focus on what you do best while trusting that everything else is in capable hands.

At the end of the day, this isn’t an excuse to drop responsibility onto others. You still need to embody leadership, which means you’ll need to thoroughly define your practice’s vision, clearly communicate expectations and at times, have hard conversations. The buck ultimately stops with you, as your practice’s leader.

However, you can still give your team members specific outcomes, tasks, and areas of responsibility to take ownership over. Those who are ready for the challenge and aligned with your vision will impress you every time!

Never underestimate the power of a workflow or a highly documented standard operating procedure. This not only provides a step-by-step approach to tasks, but it keeps you from having to re-solve the same problems over and over. Even better, it gives you and your team an opportunity to create better work-life balance, since no one’s ever the only person who knows how to do something. Hello, vacation time!

Remember, the goal in a team-led endodontic practice is to cultivate a cohesive unit, where each member’s contribution is recognized and integral to the collective success. This unity creates a ripple effect, as both your team and your patients feel highly valued. From there, your satisfied patients become your practice’s ambassadors, spreading the word to their families and dentists about their positive experiences.

Ultimately, transitioning to a team-driven approach is not about relinquishing control but rather broadening the leadership spectrum. It’s about building a robust foundation where every team member is a pillar, contributing to the practice’s stability and prosperity.

Sonia Chopra, DDS, was the first female board-certified endodontist in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she founded Ballantyne Endodontics in 2008. As a mentor and impact entrepreneur, Dr. Chopra improves endodontic education for general dentists, dental residents, and patients. She is a TEDx speaker, Dentistry Today and Forbes contributor, and the author of Tooth Wisdom, a book designed to inform and empower patients in their own oral health. She teaches endodontists how to grow their practices and improve efficiencies in their workflows so they can be more effective and profitable through her Heal Your Practice program.


Dr. Chopra is also co-founder of A Night for Smiles, a gala bringing Charlotte-area dentists together to support dental health initiatives. She is an active member of the American Association of Endodontics and is a Key Opinion Leader for Sonendo, Dentsply Sirona, J Morita, and Kerr. When she’s not treating patients or teaching dentists about endodontics, she loves to travel, garden, and spend time with her family. Follow her on Instagram at @soniachopradds.

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